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Playwright Hare at home with ghost of artist Gertler

31 October, 2019 — By John Gulliver

Sir David Hare at the exhibition on Tuesday evening with Ben Uri curator and head of collections Sarah MacDougall, in front of Mark Gertler’s painting The Coster Woman

AUTHOR and playwright Sir David Hare must sense the ghostly spirit of the great tragic artist Mark Gertler most days because he works in his studio in Rudall Crescent, Hampstead.

That’s the impression he gave when he opened a unique exhibition of some of Gertler’s paintings that have not been seen before in public. They were donated by his son Luke for a magnificent show at the Ben Uri Gallery in Boundary Road, St John’s Wood, that opened on Tuesday. Luke Gertler died two years ago.

David Hare explained how he bought the studio in the early 1990s and loves working in it, often showing members of the public around who want to see where the great man painted his masterpieces.

I assume that after he moved in he discovered Gertler’s life – how he emerged from a poor East End Jewish family at the end of the 19th century and soon became lionised as a great new talent.

David Hare told how Gertler was played by Rufus Sewell in the film Carrington and at one time was taken up by the Bloomsbury set until they began to “patronise” him and put him down as someone who would have to “rupture his brain” before he became an artist! David Hare doesn’t like the Bloomsbury set, and I can see why.

Gertler, who had moved to Hampstead, began to get depressed. Reviews of his work began to be patchy in the 1930s.

He felt he was being forgotten – and killed himself in 1939, aged 48, at his home in Grove Terrace, Highgate.

• The Mark Gertler exhibition runs until December 13 at Ben Uri Gallery, 108a Boundary Road, St John’s Wood, NW8 0RH, open Monday-Friday 10am-5.30pm (8pm Wednesday), 020 7604 3991, www.benuri.org.uk

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